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Screenwriting

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Master of Arts

Degree Type

Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts

Department

Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Western helps to transform your passion for film and TV into a career. Build a customized portfolio with our supportive faculty of working screenwriters. Through a combination of small classes and one-on-one mentorship, you’ll develop your craft and immerse yourself in the business of Hollywood from the comfort of your own home.

Program Overview

Screenwriting

Immerse yourself in the business of screenwriting.

As a student in Western’s MFA and M.A. in Screenwriting program, you’ll learn how to navigate the Hollywood system directly from current industry professionals. Recent guests have included –  Jason Grote (Mad Men), Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead), J.D. Payne (The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power), Billy Ray (The Hunger Games), Mike Reiss (The Simpsons), Liz Sczudlo (Jane the Virgin), Emily Spivey (Saturday Night Live) and many more.

Students in our MA and MFA programs come from diverse backgrounds to build a supportive community and help one another develop their unique voices. Through a dynamic blend of coursework and hands-on experience, you’ll learn how to find your place in the industry and unleash your creativity.

Because the Screenwriting concentration offers both an MFA and an M.A., you’ll be able to choose a degree that best meets your personal and career goals, setting you up for professional success after graduation. To read about the MFA requirements, click here and to read about the M.A. program requirements click here.

 

Industry insights

Interim Director JS Mayank discussing the screenwriting industry at the Summer Residency

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

The Graduate Program in Creative Writing offers an MFA in Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Poetry, or Screenwriting. Western's curricula differs from other low-residency programs by emphasizing intense training in craft, building of a writing community, close study of historically underrepresented writers, and exposure to the business of being a writer.

All MFA programs in the Graduate Program in Creative Writing use a low-residency format that engages students in two ways:
1. through rigorous online curricula and regular virtual classes spanning the Summer, Fall, and Spring semesters, during which students work closely with faculty and with members of their peer community;
2. through a one-week residency at the end of each summer semester that facilitates connection and community.

All programs require a high degree of commitment and excellence from candidates, who must maintain at least a 3.00 course average to complete the program. A minimum grade of B- in each course is required.

In all three summer semesters, MFA candidates complete a 3-credit intensive course in their concentrations. In their first summer, they take a first-year intensive course and also complete two credits of CRWR 600, The Common Read & Writing Craft. In their second summer, they take a second-year intensive course and also earn two credits for starting their thesis project. In their third summer, they take a final intensive course, plus a 1-credit elective which allows them to explore other concentrations.

During the Fall and Spring semesters of their first year, full-time students take two 6-credit courses for a total of 12 credits per semester. Students may anticipate spending between 25 and 30 hours per week on assigned coursework. The coursework typically consists of readings and viewings, asynchronous discussions, and writing assignments for which instructors offer online feedback. Students also participate regularly in live virtual classes and one-on-one meetings with faculty.

In the Fall semester of their second year, full-time students take one 6-credit course, plus three credits of mentor-guided thesis work, for a total of 9-credits, so that they can focus on the thesis project. In the Spring semester, students return to taking two 6-credit courses in their concentration, plus one final credit of mentor-guided thesis work.

Program Information

Western's low-residency MFA in Creative Writing offers a rigorous, terminal degree in the field, involving intensive creative work, development of critical and pedagogical skills, and study of the business of being a writer. Students select one of four concentrations, Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, Poetry, or Screenwriting, and are required to take a 1-credit elective during their final summer semester.

Full-time students require 25 months to finish the program, which comprises four academic semesters and three summer semesters. During the Fall and Spring semesters, students engage in courses using both live virtual classrooms and online learning tools. In each of the three summer semesters, students take courses online and attend an on-campus residency at the end of the summer term.

Total Credits for the MFA in Creative Writing
First two summer residencies @5 hours/term = 10 credits 
Third summer residency @4 hours/term = 4 credits 
First two academic semesters @12 hours/term = 24 credits 
Third academic semester @9 hours/term = 9 credits 
Fourth academic semester @13 hours/term = 13 credits 
Total Credits: 60

Requirements for Full Admission to the MFA in Creative Writing

Candidate must submit:

  • An official transcript of the bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university showing recommended 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher.
  • An 800- to 1,000-word personal statement describing the applicant's experience and commitment to writing. This statement should include a self-assessment of qualifications for admission to Western's Graduate Program in Creative Writing for the chosen degree and concentration.
  • A writing sample in the appropriate genre, double spaced and numbered, or properly formatted for the appropriate genre:
    • The Genre Fiction concentration sample should include 20 to 25 pages, ideally from a single work.
    • The Screenwriting concentration sample should include a screenplay of 15-30 pages.  
    • The Nature Writing concentration sample should include 20 to 25 pages, in any genre or a mix of genres. 
    • The Poetry concentration sample should include 10 to 15 pages of poetry.
    • The Publishing concentration sample should consist of a 3- to 5-page critical assessment of a story’s suitability for publication (story to be provided to applicant during application process).
  • Two letters of professional recommendation from those capable of assessing the applicant's preparation to succeed in graduate-level work. All letters must be originals submitted on letterhead, must be signed by the person giving the recommendation, and must be less than a year old.
  • Payment of university application fee

Provisional Admission to the MFA in Creative Writing

An applicant who does not meet the requirements for full admission to the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing may be considered for provisional admission upon the recommendation of the program director and approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies. A provisionally admitted student will have a maximum of one calendar year to complete any pre-requisite academic coursework. The program director or Dean of Graduate Studies may set additional timeline requirements.

Concentration in Genre Fiction

The Concentration in Genre Fiction includes instruction in writing for such forms as science fiction/fantasy, the mystery, romance, and other forms of mainstream commercial fiction. Study includes short and long written forms, as well as strategies and techniques for the effective teaching of creative writing. 

The MFA Concentration in Genre Fiction requires the following 60 credits:

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 600The Common Read & Writing Craft2
CRWR 601Fundamentals of Writing Genre Fiction I3
CRWR 602Fundamentals of Writing Fiction II3
CRWR 604Career Planning for Genre Writers3
CRWR 608Genre Writing I- Romance and Mystery Fiction6
CRWR 609Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery6
CRWR 618Genre Studies II- Western, Speculative, and Young Adult Fiction6
CRWR 619Genre Writing II- Western, Speculative, and Young Adult Fiction6
CRWR 620Short Forms Genre Fiction Writing6
CRWR 621Business Fundamentals for Genre Writers6
CRWR 626Pedagogy & Practicum6
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Six credits of:6
CRWR 694
MFA Thesis (must be taken for a total of six credits)
Total Credits60

Genre Fiction as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows:

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 604Career Planning for Genre Writers3
CRWR 608Genre Writing I- Romance and Mystery Fiction6
CRWR 609Genre Studies I-Romance and Mystery6
CRWR 618Genre Studies II- Western, Speculative, and Young Adult Fiction6
CRWR 619Genre Writing II- Western, Speculative, and Young Adult Fiction6
CRWR 693Master's Capstone2
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Total Credits30

Concentration in Nature Writing

The Concentration in Nature Writing brings students into the contemporary and complex conversation of environmental writing, introducing them to a wide range of authors, literary techniques, and styles relevant to the field. The concentration provides readings and training in all major literary sub-genres including memoir and personal essay, fiction, nature writing, science and advocacy writing, and hybrid and experimental work. Courses include significant reading in primary and secondary sources, workshop, and writing extensive short- and long-format work. As the culmination of their work, MFA students complete a creative thesis, which consists of part of a book-length manuscript, and engage in professional development for future publication and career opportunities.

The MFA Concentration in Nature Writing requires the following 60 credits:

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 600The Common Read & Writing Craft2
CRWR 680Writing Place: New Forms and Techniques6
CRWR 681Introduction to Nature Writing3
CRWR 682Book-Length Considerations3
CRWR 683Thesis Seminar in Nature Writing3
CRWR 685Craft of Creative Nonfiction6
CRWR 686Genres of Nature Writing6
CRWR 687Nature Writing Workshop6
CRWR 688Writing about Nature and Society6
CRWR 689Special Topics in Nature Writing6
CRWR 695Professional Development in Nature Writing6
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Six credits of:6
CRWR 694
MFA Thesis (must be taken for a total of six credits)
Total Credits60

Nature Writing as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this concentration as a second area of emphasis must earn 30 credits as follows:

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 680Writing Place: New Forms and Techniques6
CRWR 682Book-Length Considerations3
CRWR 685Craft of Creative Nonfiction6
CRWR 686Genres of Nature Writing6
CRWR 688Writing about Nature and Society6
CRWR 693Master's Capstone2
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Total Credits30

Concentration in Poetry 

The Concentration in Poetry brings students into the ongoing conversation of poetics, introducing them to the ideas, questions, approaches, and techniques that have been the concerns of poets across time and cultures. The Poetry curriculum includes workshop-style courses focused on developing voice and expanding range, as well as courses on contemporary authors, poetic craft and technique, special topics in poetry, and professional development. MFA students also take one elective during their final summer residency. 
 
As the culmination of their work, MFA students complete a creative thesis, which consists of a book-length manuscript of original poetry. Students work on this year-long, capstone project under the close guidance of a faculty mentor and present it to the GPCW community during their third Summer Residency.

The MFA Concentration in Poetry requires the following 60 credits:

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 600The Common Read & Writing Craft2
CRWR 630Foundations of Poetry3
CRWR 634Poetry Now6
CRWR 635Poetry Workshop I6
CRWR 640From Thesis to Book3
CRWR 644Poetic Lineages6
CRWR 645Poetry Workshop II6
CRWR 648Poetry Craft and Technique6
CRWR 649Special Topics in Poetry6
CRWR 650Graduate Poetry Seminar3
CRWR 653The Writing Life6
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Six credits of:6
CRWR 694
MFA Thesis (must be taken for a total of six credits)
Total Credits60

Poetry as a Second Concentration 

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows: 

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 634Poetry Now6
CRWR 635Poetry Workshop I6
CRWR 640From Thesis to Book3
CRWR 644Poetic Lineages6
CRWR 648Poetry Craft and Technique6
CRWR 693Master's Capstone2
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Total Credits30

Concentration in Screenwriting 

The Concentration in Screenwriting teaches screenwriting for both film and television. Each semester pairs an intensive analytical course with an intensive generative writing course. The concentration emphasizes story and scene structure, visual storytelling, character development, development of concept and theme, genre, dialogue-never forgetting that a screenplay is a document that will ultimately be translated to the screen. Through regular mentorship, students refine and consolidate their own best writing practices.

The MFA Concentration in Screenwriting requires the following 60 credits: 

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 600The Common Read & Writing Craft2
CRWR 660Scenes & Sequences3
CRWR 664Adapting the Feature6
CRWR 665Feature Structure & Genre6
CRWR 667Writing the Television Screenplay6
CRWR 669TV Structure & Genre6
CRWR 670Visual Storytelling3
CRWR 672Screenwriting Workshop I6
CRWR 673The Concept & The Pitch6
CRWR 674Screenwriting Workshop 26
CRWR 679Screenwriting Thesis Production3
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Six credits of:6
CRWR 694
MFA Thesis (must be taken for a total of six credits)
Total Credits60

Screenwriting as a Second Concentration

Students pursuing this second MFA concentration must earn 30 credits as follows: 

Course List
Code Title Credits
CRWR 664Adapting the Feature6
CRWR 665Feature Structure & Genre6
CRWR 667Writing the Television Screenplay6
CRWR 669TV Structure & Genre6
CRWR 670Visual Storytelling3
CRWR 693Master's Capstone2
CRWR 697Special Topics1
Total Credits30

Spotlight

Ligiah Villalobos Rojas

Ligiah Villalobos Rojas

Faculty

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The Program

Screenwriting

Acquire critical skills and experience in an efficient and effective program.

Western’s graduate Creative Writing program follows a low-residency format. Faculty and students interact online through Zoom and Canvas during the academic year and gather in person on Western’s campus for one week in early August for intensive classes and to work closely with nationally recognized authors on their writing.

  • Residency: MFA students attend three summer residencies. The first helps students develop a visual narrative style; the second focuses on workshopping short screenplays; and the third prepares graduates to present their work through pitches, table reads, and more. M.A. students only attend the first two residencies.
  • Academic Year: During the academic year, full-time students take two courses each semester. These six-credit courses make use of video conferencing and web platforms for online work. MFA students complete four such semesters, and M.A. students complete two.
  • Additional Opportunities: Guests compliment course instruction throughout the year, and students are often invited to guest lectures outside their home concentration. Students also have the opportunity to explore other concentrations through 1-credit summer elective courses.
  • Matriculation: To complete the MFA, students spend their final semester working on a feature-length screenplay under the close supervision of a faculty mentor. These screenplays are then given a professional table read at the final residency. To complete the M.A., students complete the coursework of their two academic semesters and two residencies.

Modern storytelling

We believe in teaching our students how to find their place in this industry, elevate the norms, invite in the unexpected, and use this highly visual and theme-driven medium to shake up the world with their stories.

Two students discuss a book together

Opportunities and Partnerships

  • Create a polished portfolio of 2-4 writing samples that showcase your voice (3-4 for the M.F.A. program, 2 for M.A.)
  • Deepen your craft through peer workshops and one-on-one mentorships — both online and in person
  • Practice the all-important fundamentals of structure for both film and television
  • Experience intimate workshops with guests and visiting writers, recently including Jason Grote (Mad Men), Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead), J.D. Payne (The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power), Billy Ray (The Hunger Games), Mike Reiss (The Simpsons), Liz Sczudlo (Jane the Virgin), Emily Spivey (Saturday Night Live) and many more
  • Study the business of screenwriting, including how to seek representation and copyright your work
  • Learn how to identify and pursue opportunities in the industry
  • Develop a career plan, with personalized guidance from industry veterans
  • Gain experience writing script coverage and feedback notes
  • Access electives from the program’s other concentrations: Genre Fiction, Poetry, Nature Writing, or Publishing
  • Opportunity to add a second concentration to your MFA degree, allowing for a dual emphasis in Screenwriting plus Genre Fiction, Nature Writing, or Poetry.

On-campus screenings

Screenwriting students Emily Nortnik and Keturah Price rehearse their short film at the 2023 Summer Residency.

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Additional Resources

Admission Requirements & Application

Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing considers applications in four waves throughout the year: Early Admissions, from July 1 through November…

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Tuition & Fees

Full-time enrollment in the MFA extends over 25 months, spanning four non-residency semesters and three Summer Residencies. Students may also attend half-time or take a leave of…

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Scholarships & Financial Aid

The GPCW is deeply committed to raising funds to support our students. Each year we offer substantial direct-funding scholarships. The GPCW is currently…

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Summer Residency

The highlight of our academic year is the Summer Residency, held each July on Western’s beautiful campus in Gunnison, Colorado.

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FAQs

How can a low-residency format create a sense of community among students and faculty?…

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Publications

Publications in the Creative Writing Graduate Program Explore the publications below to discover the depth and breadth of Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing: Think Journal Christine…

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GPCW Mission, Indigenous Commitment and DEIA+ Statements

The Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Western Colorado University seeks to create transformative learning experiences for our students, built from a strong foundation that honors our students’ unique voices and is supported within inclusive environments established both virtually and at yearly residency gatherings.

Learn More about the GPCW

Interested in learning more about the Graduate Program in Creative Writing? There’s no better way to get to know our program than through the voices of our faculty and students. Tune in to watch this informational video about everything you’ll look forward to as a student in our program.

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Department Information

Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Director

Tyson Hausdoerffer, Ph.D.

Director, Graduate Program in Creative Writing

Associate Director

CMarie Fuhrman, MFA

Associate Director; Director, Poetry Concentration; Faculty, Nature Writing Concentration

Executive Assistant

Anna Stileski, M.A.

Executive Assistant

Program Coordinator

Sarah Goettsch

Graduate Program in Creative Writing Coordinator

Contact Information

970.943.2014

gpcw@western.edu

Campus Location

Western Colorado University
Quigley Hall 117
1 Western Way
Gunnison, CO 81231

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